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2015 "Drus" Nero d'Avola

Cantine Gulino


Ortigia, the historical centre of the city of Syracuse, Sicily.  Photo by Bravino!

When discovering wines from Sicily you can't not talk about Nero d'Avola.  It's one of Sicily's most planted and most famous grape varieties.  It's native to the island and as its name suggests, its historic birthplace is around the town of Avola in the province of Syracuse.  It's hard not to be enticed by this wine- its rich in color, lush and full-bodied, and packs a big fruity punch.  If Nero d'Avola has never been on your radar, it should be now.  Let us tell you why.

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The Wine


Photo by Bravino!

2015 Cantine Gulino "Drus" Nero d'Avola 

Grape:  100% Nero d’Avola

Tasting Notes:  On the nose it expresses fresh, tart black fruits like unripe blackberries and black cherries. It has a soft herbal bouquet with hints of vanilla, licorice and violets. In the mouth the tannins are elegant and smooth with bright acidity, high minerality and sapidity. The taste expresses black fruit like blackberries, plums and black cherries and light balsamic notes. This is a full-bodied wine with a long finish.

Recommended Drink Window:  Best now-2025

Temperature of Service:  62-66° F

Decanting:  We suggest opening 1-1.5 hours ahead of time.  Once opened you can let the bottle sit open as you cook dinner.  However, if you don't have time to open in advance you can decant for a faster oxygenation.  We suggest to try to get your own personal idea tasting the wine little by little and discover new notes and aromas while the wine is opening up.  It's interesting to see how the wine changes from when first opened to 30 minutes or an hour later.


Nero d'Avola grapes. 

Photo by The Fifty Best

This wine is made from Nero d'Avola, which has been one of the most important and widely planted red wine grape varieties in Sicily.  Meaning "Avola black," it takes its name from the town of Avola on the island's southeast coast in the province of Syracuse.  This area was a hotbed of trade and population movement during the Middle Ages and as the grapes name suggests, its rich black color and full-bodied nature was frequently used to enhance weaker wines in France and other parts of mainland Italy.

For most of the 20th century, Nero d'Avola was used as a blending grape and the name rarely appeared on wine labels.  But by the turn of the 21st century the grapes fortunes had changed considerably and it's now common to find Nero d'Avola produced as a single varietal wine.  The quality production and the export of this wines started in the 1960s when some Sicilian producers understood the potential and started to vinify it in purity and age it in oak barrels.  It's often compared to other international grape varietals such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for its similar full-bodied style and flavors of black fruits.


Ad alberello style trellising  

Photo by Custodi

Nero d’Avola is seen as one of the noble grapes of Italy and it’s the main grape in several DOC and DOCG's. The cultivation is usually ad alberello, as "a little tree" or a spalliera meaning “trellising.”  Its cultivated surface is around 30.000 acres and it results the most planted grapes in the island.


The Nero d’Avola that we're introducing to you is named “Drus” from Cantine Gulino.  The name derives from Greek and means “oak”.  It is a dry red wine made from 100% Nero d’Avola vines whose grapes are carefully selected, nurtured by the fertile land and lulled by the mild climate of Sicily.  After a fermentation in stainless steel tanks, it gets a 12 months refining in special Allier 900 gallons Tonneau oak barrels. 


Michele showing us their Nero d'Avola grapes. 

Photo by Bravino!

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The Territory


Siracusa. Photo by Understanding Italy

Translated, Nero d'Avola means “black of Avola,” a reference to the grape's distinctive dark, purple coloring.  And Avola is the name of the town where the grapes are thought to have originated.  This small town is located in the province of Siracusa (Syracuse)  where there have been signs of grapes growing since the 15th century. The settlement of this grape in these lands has been helped by the Iblei Mountains, which protect the valleys between Siracusa, Catania and Ragusa resulting in moderate climate during the winters.  It’s interesting to see how Nero d’Avola changes in base of where it’s grown: the western area is marked by a higher concentration, harshness and toughness; the central area is denoted by a sharp taste of red fruits, and the eastern area provides a more elegant, refined taste with a finish of dried fruits.  This bottle, "Drus" Nero d'Avola comes from the eastern area, ~6 miles north of Avola and ~5 miles south of Syracuse.



Greek Theatre of Siracusa.  Photo by Deep in Sicily

Siracusa is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheaters, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer, Archimedes.  This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times and it was one of the major powers of the old Mediterranean world.  It's located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, next to the Gulf of Syracuse beside the Ionian Sea.  The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state. Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth and exerted influence over the entirety of Magna Graecia (Great Greece), of which it was the most important city.

The old city was destroyed by two ruinous earthquakes in 1542 and 1693 and it changed the appearance of Siracusa forever, as well as the entire Val di Noto, whose cities were rebuilt along the typical lines of Sicilian Baroque, considered one of the most typical expressions of art of Southern Italy.  Today, the city is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the Necropolis of Pantalica and it’s one of the main tourist attractions of the area.


Roman Ampitheatre of Siracusa. 

Photo by Bravino!

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The Winery


Sebastiano Gulino.  Photo by Cantine Gulino.

We met Sebastiano Gulino at Vinitaly 2 years ago and we were impressed by his passion and hospitality.  We tasted his wines and he also made us try some of the Sicilian land products such as cheese and salami.  We really enjoyed him and his wines, so we decided to go visit him and his winery during our trip in Sicily last June.  We set up an appointment and we went for a tour with Michele.  The experience was great and we fell in love with their bold, complex Nero d’Avola.  Knowing their history and great products, we were surprised when he told us that they were not imported in the US.  It was then that we decided to feature this wine in our Sicilian shipment.

Gulino winery.png

The winery, Cantine Gulino, is located in the ancient Contrada Fanusa area, where vineyards have been cultivated since the 1600s.  Testimony of this may be found in the testament of Pompeo Picherali, an architect that rebuilt Syracuse following the major earthquake of 1693.  The Gulino family, devoted to the land and the vineyard cultivation, took over the property in 1793.  Then in the mid-late 18oos, the terrible Phylloxera  epidemic devastated vineyards throughout Europe.  Many vineyards in Sicily and the Syracuse area were affected, such as Cantine Gulino.  Sebastiano Gulino, direct descendant, revived his family’s historic property in 1995 by replanting Nero d'Avola and restoring the ancient traditions.

During our visit with Michele we visited the Nero d’Avola vineyard right behind the original cellar.  The soil is a mixture of sand and limestone, a characteristic that gives the grapes more flavor.  These limestone particulates arise from marine sedimentation.  Geological literature calls them bench: a particular type of coastal marine deposit, seen along the Italian shores (and in particular along those of Sicily and Sardinia) made up of sandstones and conglomerates of fossils, especially molluscs.  They are sedimentary formations eroded through time by the abrasive action of the sea, locally covered by a fertile soil originated largely from the disintegration of limestone and organic substances lying underneath.

Here there is a mild climate, slightly wetter in winter and warm and sunny in summer.  The terroir here is perfect for growing several grapes, especially native Sicilian varietals, including Albanello, Moscato di Siracusa and of course Nero d'Avola. 


Michele giving us a tour through the vineyards. 

Photo by Bravino!

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Food Pairing

In the Sicilian tradition, Nero d'Avola is perfect to accompany a grilled tuna steak.  But its boldness, high tannins and medium-plus acidity is also perfect to pair with rich dishes.  Some classic pairings include oxtail soup and beef stew, but you could also easily pair this with BBQ meats, a bacon cheeseburger, or mushrooms and gamey meat cooked in all the different ways.  Naturally, you can also enjoy this wine with aged, hard cheeses.



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